As the third anniversary celebrations of ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyan’ commences, one can’t remain without commenting that the mission as the brainchild of Narendra Modi has been receiving the sort of attention and nation-wide response as no other plan ever envisaged by any other Prime Minister in the history of the country.
Second only to the much-hyped ‘Garibi Hatao’ campaign which however failed to have the desired impact with the country continuing to reel under the effects poverty for the past seventy years, cleanliness as an important national agenda and focal point of public awareness will be relegated to the realms of the rhetoric with Modi’s Clean India drive going much the same way as Indira Gandhi’s Poverty-free India campaign, if not pursued in right earnest.
‘Garibi Hatao desh bachao’ as the theme and slogan of Mrs. Gandhi’s 1971 election bid may have captured the imagination of millions of ordinary folk thus giving her an overpowering two-thirds majority at the ballots, but the proposed anti-poverty programs failed miserably to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.
Raking subjects that have a direct bearing on the populace, leaders usually strike an emotional chord with the masses. Modi, in an apparent bid to popularize his schemes, is trying to appropriate national icons of the past in order to drive home points that would otherwise appear vague.
Never a man to waste an opportunity, Modi has wisely invested in stratagems which have paid rich political dividends. The invocation of national icons in politics is one such move which has appealed to the vast multitude which in turn has lend ‘acceptance, efficacy and legitimacy’ to current political ideas.
Synchronizing the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan with the Mahatma’s birth date, it was made evident that his government endorsed the teachings of the great soul who stressed on the importance of the maintenance of high levels of cleanliness and sanitation in our daily lives.
It is the social responsibility of every citizen to keep his surroundings clean and accordingly the habit of cleanliness has to start from one one’s own house. However, the lack of civic sense, or our deliberate attempts to overlook it, has ensured that improvements on this front have been bare to nil.
Moreover, the proclivity shown by the government to bring about awareness about cleanliness amongst the public only in tiny fits and starts has been all the more damaging.
One has got tired of watching media pictures of broom-wielding leaders undertaking the ‘mission’ on commemorative occasions. Seasoned politicians that they are, many of them are not averse to the idea of some publicity employing the very same platform that has a dream ‘proposition’ written all over it.
Not that the idea of a Clean India has not appealed to the collective conscious of the nation!
The National Service Scheme (NSS), under the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs has seen the leading ‘proponent’ of the movement with university students across the country lending an effective hand to the cause in their respective areas. Similar gestures by various schools in the country too have propelled the campaign in the correct direction.
The recent cry taken up against open defection in the country, especially in the rural areas, is another step in the right direction towards achieving a clean India. The ‘Toilet movement’ as it has come to be popularized as, however continues to be a public issue only on celluloid screens and the advertising media without infusing much enthusiasm in those for whom the ‘crusade’ is more relevant.
The abhiyan after all is not all about ‘pristine urbanity’ alone, even the rural aspects of cleanliness needs to be tackled in all its sincerity. Adding urban elements of hygiene and cleanliness to rural areas, the government will have to ensure that a general awareness is brought amongst the rural populace about proper hygiene and sanitation in order to maintain cleanliness in the villages.
The Gandhian view that India dwells in its villages notwithstanding, it is the rural belt in the country that continues to be deprived of the benefits of a Swachch Bharat. For that matter, with a push towards an agrarian economy that the country desires, it is surprising to have modern amenities eluding villages in India.
Our villages continue to languish in abject penury with schemes for the betterment of the rural inhabitants either not reaching them due to their ignorance or being ‘waylaid’ by wily politicians to serve their personal interests. Lack of education is the prime reason for this anomaly.
Though an appropriate adage vis-à-vis the emancipation of women, ‘Educate and empower’ would very aptly fit the concept of a Clean India when it comes to the rural approach towards cleanliness. There is truth in the fact that providing quality education can be seen as the greatest resource for alleviating poverty. Imparting education will benefit the villagers to the extent that they will understand the merits of living in cleaner environments.
But having said that, it would be wrong to assume that cities, towns and metropolises have been subscribing whole-heartedly to the idea of clean and immaculate surroundings being an everyday affair in the country.
Municipalities across the nation continue to grapple with garbage disposal and other civic problems. Just sweeping dirt off the pavements and streets cannot be thought of as the only feature of Swachch Bharat Abhiyan.
The ineffectiveness of government authorities to get rid of ugly ulcers that deface the countryside in the form of wild growth and other shrubbery, construction debris that comes with the perennial digging of roads as also from the building sites that keep on sprouting with alarming regularity in and around the city; all these go to emphasize that taking to the streets with a broom in hand is not at all the idea of executing the whole business of sprucing up the area.
Instead of being an everyday practice, for the government authorities the sense of cleanliness apparently becomes an obligation only during special occasions or with an eye on an impending inspection by higher-ups. What sort of a commitment is this? Can such attitudes ever be motivational!
While the clean ‘private’ places in sharp contrast to the dirty ‘public’ places across the country are a mute testimony of the people making better efforts at keeping their areas clean, the ‘instructions’ of the PM being relayed down the hierarchy to achieve the ‘target’ is indicative of the apathy that epitomizes the government attitude towards converting the slogan into a viable multi-faceted programme.
Clean India drive is a monumental task that requires collective and selfless efforts by every citizen of this nation with able support from the government to make it a successful movement. It is time a clean and vibrant India adorns the global map!
(Published on 03rd October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 40)